By FARRAH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
FIVE Royal Bahamas Defence Force officers were airlifted to New Providence over the weekend following the grounding of their vessel, the HMBS Cascarilla, near Ragged Island last week.
In a press statement on Saturday, the RBDF said the incident occurred while officers were patrolling the southeastern region of the archipelago last Friday.
“As a precautionary measure, two crew members were airlifted to the capital through the assistance of the United States Coast Guard helo (helicopter) this morning to receive medical attention and are both in stable condition,” the statement read. “Additionally, a medical team was flown in aboard a defence force aircraft to assess and monitor the condition of the remaining crew members.”
Yesterday, Desiree Corneille, the RBDF’s public relations officer, told The Tribune three other officers were airlifted to New Providence following the medical team’s examination.
In a second press release, the RBDF revealed the injuries the crew members aboard the HMBS Cascarilla received last Friday were “non-life threatening”.
“Four of the five persons airlifted for medical care yesterday have been discharged,” the second release said. “One person has been admitted. She is expected to make a full recovery and is receiving medical care and remains in stable condition.”
The RBDF also said the vessel did not sustain any “material damage” and “remains in operational readiness within the theatre of operations”.
The statement added: “The force continues to participate in training opportunities and execute drills that allow for effective responses that preserves life and safety of its people during its diverse and varied operations. We are grateful to the public for its expressions of gratitude and concerns.”
Investigations are ongoing and officials plan to launch a formal Board of Inquiry to determine the circumstances revolving around the incident.
In July, the agency announced that it had convened a Board of Inquiry to assess the circumstances surrounding the groundings of two other RBDF vessels.
At the time, the RBDF said the grounding of the HMBS Rolly Gray had marked the “second unfortunate incident in recent times,” which prompted the agency to launch an official investigation to “determine the events” surrounding both incidents.
“The Royal Bahamas Defence Force wishes to reassure the general public that those placed in command positions are highly trained naval officers who have graduated from international training academies and colleges with high performance standards,” the RBDF said previously.
“The Royal Bahamas Defence Force has taken measures to strengthen the assessment, selection and professional development of our officers to ensure that such incidents are minimised in the immediate and future.”
Some of the measures include the reinstatement of their prospective craft command qualifying courses; bridge resource management simulation training for all ship crews; onboard assessments of the crew conduct and competency and coordination levels by their mobile sea training team.
The RBDF said their officers would also participate in incident analysis workshops of previous mistakes to help identify “instances of human error and corrective measures” to avoid future occurrences.
The statement concluded: “Service members have been encouraged by the commander (of the) defence force, Commodore Raymond King to embrace the concept of continuous improvement, training and professional development as the Royal Bahamas Defence Force transforms itself marked by the pursuit of performance excellence.”
In April 2018, a clip also went viral of Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis admonishing Royal Bahamas Defence Force Commodore Tellis Bethel, who is no longer on the force, about marines “mashing up” defence force vessels, adding that officers must “learn to navigate”.
Dr Minnis’ comment came after a set of propellers on HMBS Rolly Gray were damaged that month after the boat departed Coral Harbour, the third time such an incident had taken place in a six-month timeframe. At the time, Commodore Bethel, through information provided to Press Secretary Anthony Newbold, said the commanding officers of two vessels involved in those incidents have been reassigned.
It was also revealed in April 2018 that the cost of repairing HMBS Arthur Dion Hanna, which sustained damage to its port shaft and gearbox in November 2017, was $1.5m.